Ok, I have wanted to share about our breakthrough in Independent Playtime for a very long time and how I managed to get Isla to do “room time” for 30 minutes a day.
First of all, let me give you some background. It is from the Babywise books, and it is no secret that I am crazy about them. For me Isla’s independent playtime is when I pray and have my quiet time with the Lord. I cannot get through my day without it. We do it right after breakfast.
What is independent playtime?
Independent Playtime is a block of time each day that your child plays alone in their room. On Becoming Preschoolwise states that "The most important aspect of this time is that your child is learning to focus on what he can do with the things he has" (page 120).
What are the benefits of independent playtime?
On Becoming Babywise II lists several of the benefits to Independent Playtime on page 73:
- Mental Focusing Skills
- Sustained Attention Span
- Self-Play Adeptness
Who wouldn’t want those benefits for their child? I do! I definitely don’t believe that these are traits that happen by accident, and that even if your child isn’t prone to being this way, you can encourage and nurture these traits in your child.
It is important to note that Isla does not decide when she gets to do independent playtime/room time. I decide it. It is a great tool for teaching Isla that sometimes she has to obey me and does not always get to have her own way.
You can read a lot more about it HERE.
Our background story:
I started Isla in playpen time when she was very little. She would do really well whenever we were in routine, but we did have trouble. Sometimes she would cry. Sometimes she would fall asleep. When we found out we were moving to Russia, we were out of routine a lot, and I felt guilty letting her cry, which she would do every time we started it up again, so I thought that I would put it off until we got to Russia. I thought maybe having a bigger play pen would make it easier for her. It didn’t. So I stopped, again feeling guilty because we had just moved and it was a lot of change to process. Finally I decided to start her in room time. Which she also hated and cried about but by that time, I decided that we needed to follow through. For starters, I wanted Isla to have the benefits listed above. Secondly, I wanted her to have the opportunity to practice obedience. It is never too early to start.
How I did it:
Once I made up my mind, we started small. Having an egg timer helps, although I bought/tried to buy THREE and not a one of them worked so we do it without. I am going to get one in the US. Anyway, I started out putting her in her room for 2 minutes at a time. I made sure she had her “night night” (blanket) for security. I would tell her that I was going for 2 minutes and I would be back. At first she cried the entire time. After about 3 days, she understood what “back” meant and she would repeat it back to me and not cry. I would always make a big show when I came back about how she was such a big girl and did so well! I had to shut the door because otherwise she would get upset if she saw me.
After about a week, she started walking me to the door and kissing me good-bye! That is when I slowly started lengthening it by 5 minute increments. Sometimes it would be a little too long and she would cry, but we would just push through it.
We have now worked our way up to 30 minutes at a time. This time of the morning seems to be around the time she goes #2, so sometimes that happens in the middle of room time and she gets very upset so I will check on her and change her halfway through.
Some future things:
When we are in the states for 6 weeks, it will be next to impossible to do this. We are going to continue with blanket time. That is where I put down a blanket and Isla must play within its boundaries for a set length of time with me right next to her.
I also want to find an egg time that WORKS. It helps your child to see it and hear it when it goes off. It makes them feel like they have some control over when it ends. I think she will do much better once we get one.
If I had it to do over again, I would have persevered earlier, but mommy guilt over the move got in the way. But by the time I started, she was old enough to understand what was going on and knew that I would be back. Also, we waited and went straight to room time, and I feel bad that she missed all that time in playpen time. That foundation would have been very good for her.
So that is it! That is how I did it. Like with most parenting things, like potty training, once I made up my mind to DO it. It was much easier. And I think it was pretty painless for the both of us. Its also one of those things that you are constantly working on through many setbacks, but the pay offs are amazing if you persevere. I really want Isla to be able to focus and have a good attention span and I think that its possible!